Eileen R. Tabios / #EileenWritesNovel / September

Sept. 5, 2016

Writing the novel logically affects my reading habits. I passed on Augusten Burroughs' memoir, even though I was enjoying the first few pages, because its charm was just a distraction. I am about to begin Eileen Myles' novel though I'm stuck for the moment on considering whether the title's parenthetical would be off-putting to potential readers (I'll wait to finish the book for the final determination). And, okay, bonus selfies of Moi presenting two ways (I'll spare you 13) of womanifesting skepticism. I am writing, thus laboring, this day.

Sept. 7, 2016

I am dutifully checking out novels written by poets. I stumbled across one that was a gift to a library that was “withdrawn” from the shelves. It’s lovely writing. So why was it deaccessioned? I’m aware that too few people read literary fiction but I try to learn from what I’m reading. In the case of this book, too many characters are introduced swiftly before the reader can come to empathize with the protagonist, or one of the protagonists. That too-swift introduction has an off-putting effect which is also enhanced by a writing style one of the blurbers accurately called “dreamlike.” Dreamlike is one (of several) approaches in my novel so I’m checking this. Checked. Dreamlike is also the effect of the author privileging language over story (not unusual in poetry). Perhaps this poet didn't adjust for the genre. Or, perhaps this poet didn't care about genre as normatively structured. I can sense I'm circling. Perhaps I'm sensing a tipping point where poetic reader-response might allow the story to disintegrate…? Double-check.

Sept. 8, 2016

I’ve been tempted to rename the novel’s primary protagonist to be “Eileen.” Novelists have played with that identity thing (with how much the novel is fiction)—not a new device but I like it. In fact, I’ve only once used “Eileen” in the gazillion of poems I’ve written but that one time is so immensely satisfying. So, I was seriously considering it … but then came today’s novel research when I googled “TORTURE lengthy ways to die.” (Don’t ask.) As I can’t ever imagine myself conducting the “Colombian Necktie,” “The Spanish Tickler,” the “Blood Eagle,” “Ling Chi,” “Brazen Bull,” or “Scaphism,” I’ll just … preserve my name, thank you very much. Sigh: these practices—all from the same race that sent human to the moon.

Sept. 12, 2016

Then there be the novelists who fascinate but who you would not want to emulate. Like Karl Ove Knausgard—I’m with James Wood who said of him in The New Yorker, “Even when I was bored I was interested.” I just finished Vol. 5 of his MY STRUGGLE. I was astounded for the first hundred or so pages and then became irritated—I nearly ceased it several times; there are only so many pages I want to read of an adolescent-y (male) writer’s angst. But I’m glad I persevered because I have to say—and this just may be my sense of humor—I found his very last sentence hugely entertaining specifically because it took 624 pages to get there. Interestingly, though I freely confess to skimming the last 300-ish pages, I can sum up on in one word what I admire about this maximalist tome: charisma. His writing has charisma. It’s a goal to which I aspire. And yet I’m not rushing out to get/read the other books in his 3,500-page series. This reluctance, and the skimming, make me want to take back the word “charisma” but I won’t because I think I’m glossing over the psychological impact of his words. Well, for now, I’ll just share his T.S. Eliot witticism below (or is this commonly known and I'm late to the pun party?). Meanwhile, I’ll shelve this as among the books I read simply because I’m writing a novel.

Sept. 14, 2016

“I have known night as a body. I have cut this body. Night bled. It bled out more darkness..."

Novel’s getting weird. For a moment, I actually got scared there. Pardon Moi while I smile away the shivers...

Sept. 16, 2016

Oh. There's a PART VI.
I'm tired.

Sept. 19, 2016

A few days ago I bled out a short story [entitled "Charlene and Regina"]. Its plot has nothing to do with the novel. But it partly took place in a country I’d made up for the novel. Perhaps the short story is some fleshing out of that fictional country, a de facto “back story” that’ll help make the novel’s treatment of the country feel more authentic. If so, that’s all well and good. But now, I’m staring at a 3,300-word story—it’s my first short fiction in years except for a few flash fiction pieces. I don’t want to spend time looking into the short story market—it’s just a distraction for now. So, I’ll file it in the Unpublished Works File and hope I don’t end up losing it as I’ve often done with the contents of that File… So many words, so little time.

Sept. 20, 2016

Right. So now I'm developing an old character who's supposed to share gems of wisdom learned from her experience. I can't think of any. I guess I'm not that wise. So I asked the gizmo (https://www.amazon.com/Amazon-Echo-Bluetooth-Speaker-with-WiFi-Alexa/dp/B00X4WHP5E), "Alexa: give me an example of wisdom." Alexa: "Hm. I'm not sure I understand your question." Back to making it up—I guess this is fiction writing.

Sept. 30, 2016

Where was I before I was rudely interrupted by NBC's misguided attempt to make a comedy from mail order brides? Oh yes: three thoughts:

1) I binge on Netflix and Youtube. And I realize I’m learning something about endings. I’ve had several false endings on the novel and, via bingeing, I now see how a series that can go on and on if popular demand exists needs to keep refreshing itself because it doesn’t have to end. I learn from that as I’ve ordered myself to take as long as a year to complete a first draft and, at times, felt like I’m running out of ideas. But forcing myself past what I’d thought were logical endings is actually good in creating my desired multi-layered story. And thank you, James Spader! I’ve always adored you, even before “The Blacklist"!

2) I continue to read poets’ novels. Just turned aside one that’s just unreadable. The book is adorned with much praise from other poets. Uh huh.

3) I just finished Skip Fox’s novel’s WIRED TO ZONE and I stumbled across a technique that I may want to copy. It’s the split of a word between the end of one chapter to begin the next chapter (see picture). What a great idea to consider as I play a lot with repetition and I don't want to repeat myself.

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